CIT Tournament Odds: Rice Owls at Oakland Golden Grizzlies
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
by Mike Stewart
Greg Kampe's Golden Grizzlies were the two-time defending Summit League champions, but finished third in the conference this season with an 11-7 mark. The team also failed to capture the conference tournament crown, but did enough with 17 total wins to garner a fourth straight postseason bid. Oakland has certainly enjoyed home cooking thus far in this event, adding to their win total by besting a couple of Mid-American Conference schools in Bowling Green (86-69) and Buffalo (84-76) to advance to the quarterfinal round. This is the second appearance in this tournament for the Grizzlies, who are now 3-1 in the CIT.
Ben Braun's Owls finished in the middle of the pack in Conference USA this season, posting an 8-8 league mark. The team's stay in the CUSA Tournament was short-lived, with an early exit against East Carolina. However, Rice has been able to navigate the tournament field thus far. The team earned its first postseason win since the 1993 NIT, with a 77-73 victory at Louisiana and followed that up with a 74-68 home win over Drake.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.
The Owls shot a solid 53 percent from the floor overall and overcame a three- point halftime deficit by going 13-of-22 from the field in the second half against Drake to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. Dylan Ennis led four Owls in double figures with 17 points. Arsalan Kazemi and Ahmad Ibrahim added 11 points apiece, while Jarelle Reischel chipped in 10. Kazemi also made his presence felt on the boards, completing a double-double with a game-high 13 rebounds.
Rice has some offensive weapons, but is at its best when the defensive pressure remains constant. The Owls have been strong in that area this season, allowing foes just 66.0 ppg on just over 40 percent shooting. Kazemi has been a leader at both ends of the floor. The 6-7 junior is converting nearly 60 percent of his shots (.594) and leads the team in scoring (12.2 ppg), rebounding (10.5 rpg), steals (68) and blocks (31). Tamir Jackson (10.3 ppg) is the only other player in double-figure scoring at this time, although Connor Frizzelle (9.5 ppg) isn't far off the mark.
The Grizzlies have a different gameplan going in and the result is usually gaudy offensive numbers. Oakland has scored over 80 points in each of its last five games, including 84 points in a win over Buffalo last time out. Reggie Hamilton was at it once again, racking up a game-high 29 points in the win. His effort was bolstered by Ryan Bass' career-high 22 points, Travis Bader's 16 points and Corey Petros' 10.
Oakland is one of the nation's premier offensive squads, ranking seventh in scoring at 79.9 ppg. The three-pointer is a big part of the arsenal with the team ranking third nationally in three-pointers per game (9.4). Oakland set a new Summit League record with 318 treys this season. Hamilton is the undeniable leader, as he comes in as the nation's leading scorer at 26.1 ppg. The 5-11 senior set the conference single-season scoring mark (889 pts), while also pacing the team in assists (5.1 apg). Bader adds 16.0 ppg and is another sharp-shooter for Oakland. Hamilton and Bader combine for 232 of the team's 318 three-pointers this season. Drew Valentine is another double-digit threat at 11.4 ppg and is tied with Petros for the team-lead in rebounding at 7.1 per game.
The Owls are making a nice little run, but Oakland is a much better offensive squad. With the play of Hamilton and Bader and getting this game at home, the scales are tipped in the Grizzlies' favor.
Vegas-Sports Betting Prediction: Oakland 81, Rice 74
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